Monday, June 3, 2013

Colorado Rockies offense must live up to the spring training hype

The Colorado Rockies are hoping Chatwood's injury is minor.
It happens to every team, every year.

Good teams run into a good pitcher, or even a mediocre pitcher who has the night of his life, and that good team looks lost at the plate.

The Colorado Rockies had one of those nights in Cincinnati on Monday night. Eight innings of Bronson Arroyo and one inning of Aroldis Chapman was enough to subdue a lineup that had just seemed to find it's groove.

Make no mistake, Arroyo is a very good pitcher. He has more wins than any pitcher in baseball since he joined the Reds back in 2006. He has a parachute curveball that drops into the strike zone late, causing batters to lock up. His changeup is used properly, which compensates for his average fastball.

No one is going to say that Arroyo is going to win the Cy Young, but he is a very good pitcher. If he played on a higher profile team, he would be much more respected.

That said, the Rockies are a team built on offense. They played in a notorious hitter's park on Monday. A hitter's park that surrenders more home runs than Coors Field. A team built to hit cannot afford too many nights where they are simply overmatched by the opposing pitcher.

The 3-0 loss on Monday night hurts worse because of the performance the Rockies got on the mound. Tyler Chatwood started and gave up only one run on somewhat of a fluke. Both hits to score runs were flares to the outfield that found a way to get down. Those hits coupled to score the lone run that Chatwood gave up. The only problem with Chatwood's performance is the part of the game that may have more of an impact on the Rockies season than one game.

Chatwood left the game after the 4th inning with soreness in his right triceps. Those types of injuries are usually enough to put a pitcher on the disabled list. Despite starting the season in Colorado Springs and only not being considered a valuable member of the rotation, Chatwood has become the second most reliable starter over the past month, right behind Jorge De La Rosa. If Chatwood hits the disabled list, the Rockies are in a predicament.

Even with Chatwood's injury, the Rockies were stellar on the mound. Rob Scahill showed value, filling in nicely, pitching three scoreless innings in which he only gave up one hit and a walk. Josh Outman let the game get away, giving away a two-run homer to Jay Bruce, which essentially ended the game.

The problem is, ignore Outman's bad performance, and the reality is, the Rockies still lose. The offense couldn't get across the plate. Getting shutout isn't a great way to start a road series against a good team.

Much of the Rockies issues at the plate are because several young players have found themselves in slumps at the same time. Wilin Rosario, who was crushing the ball when the Rockies were rolling in April, has been brutal of late. He is so far out on his front foot that he has no ability to adjust, which pitchers are clearly seeing and throwing him breaking ball after breaking ball, only to blow a fastball by him when he adjusts.

Rosario has just seven hits since May 20th, and he hasn't hit a home run since May 18th. In that time, he has only three runs batted in. His inability to make adjustments has made changed the dynamic of the bottom of the lineup. The opposing pitcher can challenge the bottom half of the Rockies order and get outs, something that they weren't able to do in April.

Nolan Arenado, whose defense alone has made the move to bring him up a valuable one, has struggled at the plate of late. Just like many prospects go through, Arenado has hit the stage where advanced scouts have figured out his weaknesses. He is a very good hitter, but now is the time where he is going to have to adjust back to how pitchers are working him. It seems like pitchers are trying to avoid the inside pitch to Arenado, unless it is so far in that he can't turn on it. He reaches on outside pitches and has a tendency to roll over on them, grounding out weakly.

Both of those hitters are too good to not eventually figure it out. They are young and still making adjustments. However, in the meantime, the Rockies are having to try and win games when two of the hitters that they are depending on the most are slumping greatly.

The good news for the Rockies is that their pitching is not just average. It is above average. They have pitchers who will keep them in the game night-in and night-out. At some point, the offense will come around and they will begin to consistently win games.

The hope for the Rockies is that the starting pitching won't suddenly come back to earth just as the offense is getting it's groove back. That could happen, but not to the degree that people thought at the beginning of the season. This rotation was underestimated. De La Rosa has been dominant, Jhoulys Chacin does a good job of keeping the team in games and the rest of the rotation has the ability to have good outings.

At some point, this offense has to prove that they are as good as everyone expected. They have shown glimpses of greatness, but the reality is, until they play consistently, they can't be called a great offense. At this point, they still fall into the ugly category of having potential. They have the talent to be good. However, the next step is patience and consistency. The Rockies offense needs to take the next step.

Until the offense comes around, the hope is that they can scratch out a few runs against good pitchers and it will be enough to win some baseball games, despite not playing the game that they were built to play.

When that happens, many Rockies fans will be able to grown their fingernails back and start to relax a little more.

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